It's no exaggeration to say that Royal Blood could have sold out this venue for a whole week, such is the demand to see the Brighton duo right now.
The band’s current UK and Ireland tour sold out in two minutes flat: all tickets for a significantly larger ten date trek planned for February/March disappeared even faster. Royal Blood, the album, has shifted 154,318 copies since its release on August 25. Right now, there’s no hotter rock band in the country.
Understandably then, there’s barely room to breathe in the Riverside tonight, for the band’s first UK show since the festival season ended. And when British rock’s most unassuming new superstars amble onto the backlit stage the squeals and shrieks of delight are surely equivalent to those prefacing any One Direction show. Perhaps in a bid to underplay expectations, Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher opt to begin their 55 minute set not with one of the big hitters on their debut album, but rather with Hole, track number four on their debut EP, Out of the Black. It doesn’t matter: the Riverside explodes with paroxysms of delight regardless.
When was the last time you heard a whole crowd sing along to a riff? That’s what happens over and over tonight, a testament to Royal Blood’s capability to imbue each song in their armoury with hooks that could drag whales from the Arctic Ocean. This gift alone would surely be enough to mark the band out as special, but when married to a near telepathic understanding of dynamics, pacing and feel, the appeal is obvious. We’ve been here before of course, and there are echoes of similarly masterful artists in Royal Blood’s DNA: Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine, Muse and Queens of the Stone Age in particular. Josh Homme once defined QOTSA’s mission statement as a desire to make rock music “heavy enough for the boys, and sweet enough for the girls”, a blueprint Royal Blood have obviously taken to heart, for Mike Kerr’s vocals rarely carry the same aggression and bite delivered in their streamlined rhythmic womp, and this duality makes for one hell of a fine live show.
There’s precious little fat on the bones here, little that’s extraneous or fanciful. As with Muse before them, one is tempted to look behind the amps for hidden band members such is the force of nature impact delivered by the likes of Come On Over, Figure It Out and Ten Tonne Skeleton: two piece bands have no right to sound this huge. But there’s grace, beauty and no little swing too in the Blood’s ferocious sonic assault. Loose Change is slinky and sensual, while You Can Be So Cruel and Better Strangers ride out on butter-smooth grooves that owe as much to Jimi Hendrix as Jack White. But nothing threatens to eclipse Little Monster as tune/toon of the night, 600 Geordies screaming their hearts out when that beast of a chorus rears into view. The night closes with Out Of The Black, all outlaw swagger and hammering martial beats, Kerr and Thatcher locked in like a machine, and then they’re gone – no encore, no platitudes and no danger of outstaying their welcome. Rest assured, Royal Blood will never be in rooms this small again, so nights like this will take on a special significance in years to come. But right now, this juggernaut isn’t slowing down for anyone.